I feel guilty every time I open a can of chickpeas. That’s because I know that starting with dried chickpeas is more economical and no doubt healthier, and it’s what my Sitto always did. She never, ever used canned. I never, ever used dried. That is, until recently, when I got the hang of preparing dried legumes in cooking school. The same method applies to any dried legume, so this is a handy thing to know for dried beans of every kind.
It’s not difficult—it just takes time. Start by sorting through the dried chickpeas for any bad ones in the crowd. Then place them in a deep bowl. The yellow and pink glass bowls in the kitchen cupboard jumped out at me when I went to soak my chickpeas…these bowls have been around as long as I have, at least. There was clearly another middle-sized bowl in the set, and I can’t help but wonder what happened to it because I don’t remember ever seeing it. I bet it was green. I’m violating the rules of good food photography by placing brown food in a yellow bowl, but it’s the largest bowl I have on hand here in Harbor Springs, so there you have it.
Cover the chickpeas by 4 or more of inches with cold salted water (3-4 tablespoons), and let them soak overnight or for 12 hours. Then pour off the soaking liquid. Don’t be tempted to use this liquid as your cooking liquid—fresh water is a must. Consider the soaking liquid “saturated,” and no good for cooking the legumes.
Place the chickpeas in a large pot and cover by several inches with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 1.5 – 2 hours, or until soft (but not mushy). Offset the lid of the pot to let some of the steam out. Aromatics can be added, like a bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf) or mire poix (celery, onion, carrot). I don’t add them for the hummus. Salting at this point will slow down the cooking process, so better left until the legume is used in whatever dish you are making.
That’s really all there is to it. Now you have lots of chickpeas (dried legumes measure out to double their amount once cooked) and you feel great about being thrifty and homemade. We’ve made Sitto proud! Freeze the chickpeas (aired out after they’re cooked) if you aren’t going to use them up right away.
Tomorrow, your favorite and mine: Hummus bi tahini!